New laws could help housing crisis

Several measures to address Oregon’s affordable housing crisis are heading to Gov. Kate Brown for approval, following final passage in the Oregon Legislature.

The Senate approved House Bill 4143, which provides more predictability for Oregon renters, including a ban on rent increases in the first year of a month-to-month tenancy and 90-day notification for any rent increases after that.

“The situation has become dire for Oregonians, many of whom work full time and still can’t keep up with skyrocketing rents,” said Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D–Portland), chair of the House Human Services and Housing Committee. “It will take us years to comprehensively address this crisis, but I’m proud that the legislature took steps to address the immediate needs of well over one million Oregonians who are currently renters.”

The House passed Senate Bill 1533, which ends statewide bans on two affordable housing tools, inclusionary zoning and construction excise taxes.  Inclusionary zoning is a market-based, land-use housing policy that allows cities to require affordable units be built alongside market-rate housing in order to better meet the needs of their residents.  In addition to providing an inclusionary zoning framework for local governments, the bill requires that revenue from any new construction excise taxes will support affordable housing.

“I believe every Oregonian should be able to afford a safe, decent place to live,” said House Speaker Tina Kotek (D–N/NE Portland). “By passing this bill, we will help local governments meet their responsibility to ensure more Oregonians have access to safe and affordable housing.”

Other housing and homelessness bills and budget allocations approved in the 2016 session include:

• SB 1582, which sets out implementation guidelines for the $40 million bonding investment the state made last year to build new affordable housing.

• HB 4042, which restarts the General Assistance Program to support homeless individuals who cannot work and should qualify for federal disability assistance.

• $8 million to increase emergency housing assistance to community agencies.

• $2 million to increase support for homeless shelters.

• $2.5 million in lottery bonds for the preservation of existing affordable housing.

• $2.7 million for foreclosure counseling and $200,000 in additional support for Legal Aid Services of Oregon to help low-income Oregonians deal with housing-related issues.

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